The Lord Chancellor has just made a written statement to Parliament on criminal legal aid, following the recent consultation.
This is what he said:
I am today publishing the Government response to the “Transforming Legal Aid: Crime Duty Contracts” consultation published on 24 September. Copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
This consultation was specifically about the reports produced by KPMG LLP and Otterburn Legal Consulting regarding the legal aid litigator market, which helped inform decisions on the number of criminal legal aid duty contracts to be offered across England and Wales in 2015. We have thoroughly reviewed all the responses received.
As a result, the Legal Aid Agency will let 527 crime duty contracts. This has been revised from 525. The LAA is also today issuing an Invitation to Tender for those organisations eligible to apply for a 2015 Duty Provider Crime Contract. Contracts have already been awarded for own client work, the other type of criminal legal aid contract we announced in February.
To provide further help to firms in rural areas, we have decided to introduce payments for travelling times in excess of 90 minutes. We will also relax the office requirements in the split procurement areas and London to give greater flexibility. This builds on the support measures introduced earlier, such as introducing interim payments for lawyers involved in lengthy Crown Court cases and establishing a business partnering network to help practitioners with organisational and financial advice, if they need it. We have also worked with the British Business Bank to develop guidance and advice specifically for the legal aid market.
I have previously informed the House that a second fee reduction for litigators is forecast for mid 2015. The Legal Aid Agency are inviting bidders to bid on the basis that the fee reduction will take place in July, subject to the further considerations we have already said we will undertake.
The government’s consultation response is here. The ITT is not yet on the LAA website but we will post it when it becomes available.